Book Review: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

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This classic is probably somewhat autobiographical and somewhat entertaining. The diction is that of yester-year and proved to be interesting at times both in plot and language. I can see why people believe it to be a classic.

It did reinforce — at least in my mind — that it would be almost impossible to be a man of action in those days. Everything was regulated by social structure and formality which I guess they needed because they lacked television. Not only did they have to invent their own entertainment in the form of making things more important than they are, the had to pad those actions with formality otherwise it wouldn’t take up enough time and they would find themselves getting drunk and harloting. Nevertheless, it was a good read.

Peeing Around the Yard

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There was a period of time in my early 20s where I lived alone, or mostly alone. My family was living in Germany and I was in Salt Lake going to college. I had quite a few adventures during those days and this is one of them.

The Problem

One crisp Saturday morning after having prepared cinnamon toast for breakfast and partaking of it with my own hands, I strolled outside in the front yard of my parent’s house enjoying the fresh air and quietude that delicately mantled in the air. Then I stepped in a heaping pile of dog crap[1].

Having been shocked into the reality of my predicament, I surveyed the yard and found there to be quite a few heaping piles of dog crap spread liberally across our property. I suppose I had never noticed them before — these little piles of offense — as I was a busy college student with a non-existent social life.

But there I stood, one foot cemented in gooey feces and decided that something must done. There must be a way to keep dogs and other animals from pooping in my yard.

Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it

I remember stories of my grandfather, my father’s father, who was an avid gun collector and hunter, and how he dealt with neighborhood cats. He filled a squirt bottle with bleach and when a cat raised it’s tail to dump, he would squirt the cat’s anus with bleach and watch the cat obtain running speeds only dreamed of by astronauts.

Having considered this idea I realized it had several disadvantages (as well as several humorous advantages) — and I rejected the idea.

So I began to think and leverage all my knowledge and experience about and with dogs against the problem of keeping them from soiling my yard. I remembered that they are territorial and mark said territory with their urine… and so an idea formed.

My Brilliant Idea

If dogs marked their territory with urine, I reasoned, then I too could mark my territory with my own urine. I believed it was possible to mark my territory, so to speak and thus let the wandering and ill-mannered dogs know they were trespassing when encroaching on my yard.

Realizing also that it was impractical to run around the yard several times a day pissing in various strategic locations I resolved myself to collecting the urine in a jar then, as time permitted, pouring that urine in various quantities and locations around the yard. Thus I would mark my territory and reclaim my yard as my own.

I soon discovered, however, that my urine output was, I believed, far below any usable amount — measuring but a scant couple of cups per day. Anticipating this to be a problem, I started drinking water and any other beverage I could find and holding my urine until such time it could be collected. Soon I was collecting more than a quart per day and was able to liberally pour vast quantities in continuous streams around the yard creating, in effect, an unbroken barrier of marking.

An Unexpected Result

Within a week I did see a marked decline in the amount of dog excrement on my lawn and on several occasions — having become interested in the experiment and watching the foot- and paw-traffic when time permitted, observed dogs becoming visibly and noticeably confused when entering my territory. Although these dogs would sprinkle a few drops of their own scent here and there, they all quickly moved on to less odoriferous territories.

Then one day after a week or so of my efforts I took myself to walking to the Greek Souvlaki and noticed that neighborhood dogs began barking at me with unusual ferocity and at greater distance than before. Upon actually walking directly in front of them they became crazed as if possessed by daemons that they would surely drive them to eviscerate and devour me if the fence did not obstruct them!

It then dawned on me that they could easily associate the smell of my territory with me, the person, and I was now outside my territory and well into theirs. Even dogs from several hundred feet distance would identify in this manner and would bark as if to say they would rip me to shreds if they were afforded but half the opportunity.

A More Traditional Method

Now for those who do not know me very well, I have not had, shall we say, great experiences with dogs. In fact, I was first bitten by a dog at the tender age of 3 and introduced to tetnis shots at that same time — which was a portent of things to come[2].

Not wanting to increase my already uncanny chances of being bitten again, I decided the experiment had been a success — and I declared it so and stopped peeing around the yard.

Rather, I turned to more traditional methods such as observing which dog accidentally left their property in my yard and then humbly returning it to the dog’s owner, usually in a place where they would find the missing item, such as the driver’s seat of their car or in their mailbox.

Miraculously this affected the same result as owners became more aware of their pet’s unfortunate habit of dropping things and were more fastidious in collecting their dog’s misplaced items.

fn1. Despite being mislead in my youth everyone can easily tell the difference between dog crap and human poop. One afternoon when I was 6 a friend and I played at my elementary school’s playground. Suddenly, I had to take a dump so bad I knew I would never make it home. My friend said, just take a poop right there next to the stairs — no one will see you (which was a lie) and they will think a dog did it. So, I relieved myself of personal discomfort right next to the stairs of the Kindergarden. The next day I casually walked up the stairs to Kindergarden and overheard Chantelle say “someone pooped right there” to which another girl said “yeah, and they probably thought we wouldn’t notice.” I just kept on walking.

fn2. I have been bitten by more dogs than I can count. Growing up I averaged a couple of bites a year which did two things. First, it instilled in me an inherent distrust for all dogs. Second, it kept me current on my tetnis shots so each time I had stitches (which also happend a couple of times a year) I didn’t receive additional shots.

Sick and Wrong

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Sick and Wrong Tonight we had a family dinner (my wife’s family) at our house. As I’m sure everyone has experienced, having relatives over isn’t the most favorite thing in the world. Usually my TV is taken over to watch football, loud discussions ensue remember stories from yesteryear talking about people I’ve never heard of. I try and learn as much as I can, but typically I wind up having to do the “behind the scenes” work, like getting the salt and pepper, refilling the water pitcher, arbitrating fights between the cousins — the usual stuff.

If I may digress for a moment, I also find these family dinners exhausting. I spent most of the day cleaning and cooking — general preparation stuff. Then the family comes over, they eat, drink and laugh, then leave. Then I go back to a couple more hours of cleaning. It’s no fun at all.

So my wife has this saying: sick and wrong. This little phrase is afforded to only the highest level gross and perverse — like sardine ice cream or pink M-12 machine guns. Tonight I saw just that sort of thing.

The dinner was a spaghetti one and my mother-in-law brought the sauce. Strangely, she brought Italian sausage in a separate container — not mixed in with the sauce (which I can understand because some people like meaty sauce and some don’t). But what I found sick was the fact that whole chunks of chicken — still on the bone — were mixed in the sauce. But what was sick and wrong was the hard-boiled egg mixed in there. Yes, you read correctly — spaghetti sauce with a hard-boiled egg in it.

Now this shouldn’t be too surprising because she is also famous for her half-slice of peach with a dollop of mayonnaise on it, or the scrabbled eggs with peas — all of which make me shudder.

So this makes me think, what is the weirdest or grossest thing you’ve ever saw or ate? What do you think is “sick and wrong?”

Atari 1027 Printer

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ATARI 1027 PrinterFor those who don’t know, I am the proud owner of an ATARI 8-bit computer collection. I also have some 16-bit computers like the 512ST and the 1024ST but most of it is 8-bit.

Today I found a jem of an item: the 1027 letter quality printer. Back in the mid 1980s when I was using ATARI computers on a daily basis, I had a choice when buying a printer. Should I buy a dot-matrix that was capable of text and graphics (with crappy text) or a letter-quality printer that made beautiful documents, but no graphics. I decided on the graphics so I could use PrintShop and make my own greeting cards and the like.

Not being able to afford an Epson MX-80, which was the gold-standard of 9-pin dot matrix printers, I bought a Star Micronics P-100 which was compatible with the MX-80. To use a standard printer I also had to buy a P: to R: converter that would allow the ATARI to talk to a standard parallel port printer. As luck would have it, I still have the P: to R: converter and the Star Micronics printer. But now I also have a 1027 that I could hook up if I want.

If anyone has any ATARI computer equipment they wish to donate, I will someday be setting up a museum to display the glory that is ATARI.

D.I. — A Cheap Source for Cables

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What is HP Thinking

Deseret Industries - American Fork, UtahYesterday I found out that 5 of the laser printers I had purchased from HP did not come with USB cables. I find this completely ridiculous for many reasons, one not being that I love banana-cream pie so much. But it’s silly, especially since HP does not sell USB cables. What possible motivation could there be to not include one except to save money and frustrate customers. And what could the monetary saving be in not including a cable? I have it on good authority that when buying in bulk — which I’m assuming HP can do — you can get the USB cable somewhere between 10 and 20 cents. So why not include it? Your guess is as good as mine.

Insane Markups

So I find myself needing to pick up a handful of USB cables for some printers and not wanting to pay the $20 or more in average cost you typically find at Comp-USA or Office Depot. And don’t get me started on the “gold plated connectors” which is a marketing tool that tries to fool you into thinking your data transfers will be less corrupt with a gold connector[1] and thus, you are willing to pay a higher price[2].

Getting Cables Cheap

So there aren’t too many choices left. You can find a supplier for cables, but you still wind up paying more than I like. On alternative is to make your own, which you can do with USB cables for less than one dollar a piece (the USB ends are about 40 cents each) — but you have to be handy with a soldering iron. And I always make my own network cables which cost about 30 cents a piece and don’t require soldering at all.

And so I went to the local Deseret Industries (D.I.). For those who don’t know, D.I. is a thrift store that resells donated materials. Kind of like the Salvation Army[3]. But I can always find printer cables and quite often USB cables there — and they sell for 50 cents a piece. What a deal! I highly recommend it to all.

Bargain Freaks

So I arrived a little before 10 AM at the American Fork D.I. and to my astonishment, there was a group of people waiting to burst through the doors the second it opened. What kind of people wait in line for D.I. to open in the morning — I mean, this is used and donated stuff — how good could it be?

So, of course, I asked some people who were waiting outside. None of them seemed to know what they were doing there waiting but there they were — waiting in the cold for the doors to open. The only thing I could think of was “am I a freak for standing here asking other freaks why they are here?”

fn1. One favorite story along these lines happened to my friend, Paul Lambert. Paul was at a Circuit City and needed a connector cable for his Dolby Digital connector between his DVD player and amplifier. Paul said he needed a cable and asked for the cheapest RCA-jack cable they had. The salesman, horrified, tried to sell Paul a “monster cable” claiming that the increased shielding and gold-plated connectors would vastly improve the sound quality over the crappy cable. And let me pause here to tell you that Monster Cables are insanely overpriced. Paul replied that the thinking was a fallacy because the signal is digital — it’s either going to get there or it isn’t (and of course, if it does get there, it will be perfect).

fn2. My brother, Josh, worked at Comp-USA for a while and enjoyed the employee discount where there. As part of the employee discount an employee can purchase a certain amount of equipment for Comp-USA’s cost (meaning, they don’t make any profit on the purchase). On most items the margin is pretty thin, somewhere around 10%. But on data cables, the markup is insane. For example, I bought a 10 foot USB extension cable with a retail price of $29.95. Josh bought it for $1.50 — I can’t even do the math for that kind of markup!

fn3. Most people don’t know this, but the Salvation Army is a religion. Don’t be fooled by their Santas at Christmas time or their flashy brass marching bands — they are out to save your soul.

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